cover image On a Starry Night

On a Starry Night

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-531-06820-5

Like Jane Yolen's Owl Night , this gentle, poetic picture book intently focuses on the sounds and visual beauty of nature as experienced by a child on nighttime walks with her parents. The narrator climbs a hill ``where nighthawks swoop / and the dark woods rattle with crickets and frogs.'' The child is frightened, until her mother lovingly points out the constellations and tells her how, when she was a child, her father and she ``saw the northern lights, like brightly colored scarves, dance across the sky'' and she ``forgot to be afraid.'' By the time the girl's own father joins them, her fears, too, are allayed, and when he swings her into the air, she imagines herself riding both Cygnet and Pegasus. Kinsey-Warnock's ( The Canada Geese Quilt ) text, with its gem-like images and sensitive story, shines like the bright stars in McPhail's ( The Bear's Toothache ) dark, almost phosphorescent charcoal drawings. Bold swaths of purple, blue-green and red add mystery to his unusual landscapes. Both text and art imaginatively portray the fireflies that ``blink and flicker like sparks / up into the sky'' and the planets ``spin by . . . like ribbon from a spool.'' Ages 4-7. (Mar.)